Photo by Davis BarberTwo years back, during simpler times of Patriot Acts and warrantless raids, the OC Peace Coalition found itself on the thorns of a dilemma: Should these gentle, peace-loving dirty hippies reward Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez's opposition to the Iraq war with a bouquet of roses? Or not? They were torn.
The Garden Grove Democrat's views on the war are evident. As a ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, she has called the present condition in Iraq a "classic guerrilla-type war" and has publicly questioned the president's and the secretary of Defense's "refus[al] to characterize it as such." She has criticized the administration's determination to "downplay the gravity of this situation." She has even used her allotted time on the committee to grill military officials—such as then-CENTCOM commander General Tommy R. Franks—on Army tactics in Iraq.
While they liked her anti-war stance on Iraq, they loathed her contradictory position of "favoring massive, wasteful 'defense' spending," Gordon Johnson of OC Peace recalls. Some claimed that "on a few issues she has been okay," but disputed the necessity of gifting a government official for "doing precisely what is expected."
Then there was painful memory: a Sanchez staffer had once dismissed local peaceniks as "silly, know-nothing crackpots."
The fate of a $25.99 nosegay hung in the balance.
Sanchez, the 44-year-old, 47th District representative, is a self-proclaimed "working-class indigenous Mexican," though she's Lynwood born and Anaheim bred, and married to a rich man whose last name is Brixey. Given that, it may come as little surprise she's legendary in political circles for her Leonard Zelig-like ability to change positions on almost any issue, a quality that has frustrated supporters and critics who can't seem to pin her down. Her flip-flopping has made enemies of people who ought to be her friends—call them frenemies: veterans, ravers and the ACLU. Despite this, even longtime skeptics have admired her more recent—and unwavering—opposition to the war.
This outspokenness could make Sanchez a key player at the Democratic Convention in Boston next week. The war in Iraq is her party's hot-button issue this century—and Sanchez could wind up its female triggerman, as the Democrats aim their sights on the presidency.
It's been a long road for Sanchez. The previous Democratic Convention, held in Los Angeles in 2000, nearly ended Sanchez's career, when she hosted a fund-raiser for Al Gore at the Playboy Mansion. The late-night comedians—not to mention stick-up-their-ass Republicans—went nutso, the Gore campaign distanced themselves from the "non-sanctioned" event, and Sanchez's once-bright star lost much luster. But her high-profile stance on Iraq has brought her back into play.
"Her position on the war probably adds some credibility to her as a Democrat and a little bit of gravitas to her stature as a member of Congress," says Mark Petracca, associate professor of political science at UC Irvine. "But absent a plan of action, she's not leading, and goodness knows we need a Congress to lead."
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Her solid stand against the Bush administration's lack of war planning moved the members of the OC Peace Coalition sufficiently to continue their debate into the wee hours of their meeting's evening. When they finally emerged, they agreed only to disagree.
"We do not operate according to majority rule, but instead avoid the 'tyranny of the majority' via consensus," said Jarret Lovell, a Cal State Fullerton criminal-justice professor and OC Peace member.
Translation: the vote has to be unanimous for the group to act.
The flowers were never sent.